The Amaranth Enchantment
by: Julie Berry
# of pages: 306
This cute young adult fairy tale fantasy is about a 15 year old girl named Lucinda whose life is changed forever when two strangers enter her uncle's goldsmith shop one day. From then on, one thing after another happens and Lucinda is forced into the adventure of her life. The book has everything from a "witch," a nasty aunt, a mischievous thief, an evil lord, and (of course!) a handsome prince.
I enjoyed the book and read it in less than a day because it was so fast. However, I felt like the story was very disjointed, especially towards the end (after page 250). After that it really didn't flow very well. Also, it was confusing how Lucinda sometimes jumped from one conclusion to another and contradicted herself. However, I've found that to be a common trait in many young adult books. I think YA authors try to be simple and so don't always explain the process the character goes through to make decisions.
All in all, this is a unique retelling of a fairy tale (based on Cinderella), if not a little strange in parts. It's definitely geared towards young adults, not all adults will be able to enjoy it. I recommend this to young adults and fans of young adult fantasy.
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The Amaranth Enchantment
by: William P. Young
Challenges: TBR Challenge, What's in a Name?
# of pages: 248
Quote: "Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control."
"Is that why we like the law so much - to give us some control?" asked Mack.
"It is much worse than that," resumed Sarayu. "It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse." -Sarayu & Mack pg. 203
Well I finally read the very famous novel, The Shack. Emphasis on novel. After reading it, I have a hard time seeing what the controversy among Christians is about. It's a fiction novel, a man's opinion on how a weekend with God might go. I don't think he's claiming that anything in it is gospel, I think several of the statements that "God" makes in the book are ones that can be interpreted in different ways. I'm conducting this review from a Christian viewpoint since that's what I read it with and how I think of it, even though it is just a novel.
That being said, I didn't enjoy reading the book, it wasn't fun or even terribly interesting to me. It was a lot like going to hear a sermon, minus the jokes that the pastor at my church throws in. However, I'm glad I read it because at least now I can participate in the conversations about the book and know what all the hype is about.
I'm sure most of you know what the novel is about, but here's a brief plot summary. Mack's daughter, Missy, is abducted and evidence of her murder is found in a shack in the middle of the wilderness. Several years later Mack receives a note from God inviting him to spend a weekend at the shack with him. Mack arrives and meets God. God has taken the form of a black woman for Mack at first. Jesus is there and so is the Holy Spirit in the form of an Asian woman named Sarayu. The 4 spend the weekend together and Mack learns about God's true nature.
Unfortunately, I imagine that some people find this book controversial just because God takes the form of a black woman and the Holy Spirit takes the form of an Asian woman. Too many people I grew up with would probably find this "wrong." However, God is not a black woman, he's taking the form of a black woman because at that point in time, that's what Mack needs in order to accept God and what he has to teach. As a matter of fact, God asks Mack to call him "Papa," even while he's in the form of a woman. Same with the Holy Spirit, it's just a form that is comforting to Mack, it doesn't mean the Holy Spirit has a set form or really is an Asian woman.
There were a few things here and there that I thought, "Ah ha! I don't think that's Biblical!" but then after thinking about it for awhile realized that it could be interpreted differently and therefore not contradict the Bible. For example, at one point God talks about hierarchy within human institutions and relationships and how it's not what he wants for us. My immediate thought was if God doesn't agree with hierarchy among the human race, why does he assign different people different levels of authority within the church in books such as Ephesians (ch 4) and 1 Timothy (ch 3)? However, one interpretation of the novel is that God's original plan for humans (before the garden of Eden) didn't include any kind of hierarchy. But our sin and the evil that followed makes some sort of accountability structure necessary, even within the church. Unfortunately, humans will never allow equality in any system, including the church, but I'm sure God would prefer us to all be equal and not have to be forced into institutional structures. Also, in a church the pastor has the gift of being able to lead, but that doesn't give him more power. He's still accountable to the entire congregation. We are all different parts of the same body, we're all supposed to be working together, no one is more important than another because one part cannot function without the help of all the other parts (Ephesians). Also, I think many parts of the modern church have taken church structure, rules, and traditions too far, forgetting that a relationship with God really doesn't take that much work to maintain and that the church body should be more equal than they allow it to be. That's just my way of interpreting it, but Young could very well have meant something else. I just think there's no reason to get too upset or defensive when it could mean anything.
Anyway, I haven't done all the research and I'm not going to. It's just a book to me, I only thought deeper about some sections because I've known some people who have claimed it's very contradictory to the Bible and I wondered how exactly. Some things can be interpreted in different ways, so how can we feel strongly that it means just one? I don't know exactly what Young was thinking, but does it really matter? It's all fiction and his opinion anyway, even if it does contradict the Bible. I think the book is great for people who are struggling with loss. Different people need to hear and believe different things during times of deep loss, and this could be just what some need. I think it really brings home the fact that following Jesus isn't work, we can all do it. If you aren't familiar with a true relationship with God then this book can be very inspirational and share new concepts (and will be more interesting than if you already know or understand this relationship).
Booknotes by Lisa
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The Daughter of Time
by: Josephine Tey
Challenges: What's in a Name?
# of pages: 206
Don't ask me how this ended up on my TBR list. It's been on it for years though, I can't remember what made me put it on there. I have to say, I was disappointed when I finally read it!
The story is about Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard, who was injured during a case and is in the hospital...bored out of his mind. One of his friends decides to help him find something to do to pass the time and gives him a stack of portraits since he likes to analyze faces so much. Grant is immediately drawn to a portrait of Richard III, ruler of England in the 1400s. Richard was known as being a "monster," but Grant is struck by the fact that he looks so respectable in his portrait. Convinced that he isn't seeing the face of a murderer, he decides to discover what really happened over 400 years ago that left Richard with a grisly reputation.
What I didn't like about this book was the fact that the reader doesn't get to know the characters, even Grant, very well. However, I discovered that Tey wrote several other books that feature Inspector Grant before The Daughter of Time. This is a stand alone novel, but I think that by the time Tey wrote this novel she no longer had to introduce the characters as much. So perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I read her other books first.
Also, while the historical facts are very interesting, I felt like they could have been conveyed even better. The majority of the book is dialogue about history. There's so much information in so few pages. I would read and feel like I had read so much, only to realize that it was only 3 pages worth. I think that there could have been a better way to present the information. Maybe spread it out more, only put what was really relevant to the mystery, or just make it more interesting by putting more of the modern day story about Grant in between to break it up.
Anyway, the good thing about this book was that it does cover an interesting subject that I didn't know anything about before picking it up. Now I'm interested in Richard III and have even done a little bit of extra research to find out more about him and what people in our modern time think of him (Wikipedia counts as research, right?). It was neat how history is presented in a mystery form and that Inspector Grant goes about solving it just as he would a crime case assigned to him by the Scotland Yard. I was also interested to read on Wiki that Richard III was actually given a modern day "trial" in 1997 to formally decide whether or not he was guilty of the crimes attributed to him. Apparently Inspector Grant wasn't the only one who wondered more about this mysterious historical figure.
Overall I don't rate this very high because I feel like it could have been written in a more agreeable and interesting way. I recommend this to lovers of history, especially medieval history.
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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
by: John Boyne
Challenges: YA Challenge
# of pages: 216
Quote: "And were they really so different? All the people in the camp wore the same clothes, those pajamas and their striped cloth caps too; and all the people who wandered through his house . . . wore uniforms of varying quality and decoration and caps and helmets with bright red-and-black armbands and carried guns and always looked terribly stern, as if it was all very important really and no one should think otherwise.
What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?" -Bruno pg. 100
If I had to describe this book in one word it would be: powerful. The descriptions of the Holocaust are vague and the reader doesn't really get involved, and yet, I can't stop thinking about this book. It doesn't have to be detailed and we don't have to connect to the main character to still be affected by the story.
The story takes place in Nazi Germany. Bruno is the main character and the story begins with his family being transferred to "Out-With" so that his dad, a high ranking Nazi officer, can run the camp after receiving a visit from "the Fury." Bruno finds the move a hard adjustment, one that is made even more confusing by the fact that he doesn't understand where he is and what's going on. One day he meets a boy the same age as him and they start up a friendship unlike any Bruno has ever had before. The boys can't play together because they are separated by a huge fence. So instead they talk, and as they talk, they discover how much they have in common...and how much they don't have in common.
It's fascinating how Boyne made this book so innocent when it is discussing a topic that is so NOT innocent. It's eerie to see everything through a child's eyes. Bruno mispronounces and doesn't understand words and so comes up with the terms "Out-With" and "Fury" instead of their proper pronunciations. I knew what "Out-With" was right away, but for some weird reason, it took me awhile to realize what "the Fury" was. However, in both cases I couldn't help but see how Bruno's versions of these words are actually more appropriate than the true pronunciations.
My copy of the novel has an interview with Boyne at the end and I was pleased with what he had to say. He's very aware not only of the injustices of the Holocaust, but of the countless genocides that have taken place since then. The reason why I would recommend this book to ALL people, regardless of age, is because I feel like it still applies to our lives today. And that's exactly what Boyne wrote it the way he did. We can learn lessons from the novel, lessons that are important for adults and children to learn. So although the subject of the Holocaust can be touchy because of the violence, I still think that children should learn about it at a young age to learn about injustice so that they will recognize it if it ever comes up in their lifetime. This book can be a tool in teaching them this lesson because of it's young adult style. However, although the story is simple, it's also one that adults can relate to, no matter how many other books they have read on the subject.
Booknotes by Lisa
Bloggin' 'bout Books
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The Blind Assassin
by: Margaret Atwood
Challenges: What's in a Name?
# of pages: 521
I don't really know what to say about this book. I didn't really like it most of the way through. For awhile in the middle I was interested, then it seemed slow again, but after reading the very last part I kind of liked it. I think that reading it in bits and pieces over a long period of time was not the way to go. However, I just couldn't motivate myself to read more and when I received the opportunity to read The Hunger Games, I took time off to read that. So perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I read it all at once. That's definitely what I recommend others do!
The story is told by Iris Chase Griffin, an old lady who is looking back over her life at the age of about 82. She remembers her family and the tragedies that occurred when she and her sister were young. It's all very tangled because she tells about her current life and her past while there are also articles from the local paper and chapters from the book (a book within a book) The Blind Assassin. Everything comes together at the end and I was pleased that I solved all of the mysteries ahead of time. That's one reason why I liked it at the end. I finally completely understood everything and my suspicions were all correct!
The novel is very dark and it made me sad that so many of the characters in the book go through life without ever experiencing true love. Not just romantic love - true love in general. A couple of the characters think they are in love...or maybe they are really in love, but it's just not what love should be. Not only is the story dark in this way, there are many other disturbing things that crop up such as suicide, death, manipulation, lies, insane asylums (this seems to be a theme in many books I've read recently - The Woman in White & The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox), affairs, incest, etc.
I recommend this book to fans of Atwood (I don't think I am a fan...I liked The Handmaid's Tale, but didn't care for Cat's Eye) and "deep" thought provoking novels. I only recommend this for adults, there's a fair amount of bad language and sexual descriptions.
things mean a lot
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